StudentUniverse in collaboration with the Taiwan Tourism Bureau offered me the opportunity to travel and bike 900 kilometers around the vast land of Taiwan. The experience was absolutely mind boggling and so surreal that looking back it only felt like a dream. Definitely one of the craziest challenges I’ve ever approached. This is a tale of 16 players, 9 cities, and one grand adventure.
Photography by: Juan Martinez
Opening Ceremony, this is harder than I thought…
Upon arriving in Taipei I was immediately greeted by my guide and was escorted to The Howard Hotel—a beautiful hotel with a modern interior. I had the opportunity to meet my other teammates and we had a night out on the town. We celebrated the beginning of our trip and mentally prepared for the 80 kilometers trek the next day. Early the next morning, our international team attended the opening ceremony. The ceremony was beautiful and full of excitement. The next thing we heard was the “bang” and we the race had begun!
Photography by: Juan Martinez
The first day, we biked from Taipei to Jiaoxi. Getting on the bike for the first couple hours was absolutely thrilling. We raced downhill passing through traffic as if we were a New York bike messenger. As we hit the outskirts, we faced our first obstacle—a steep incline that needed (and would be) conquered. The exhaustion was rewarded with a leisurely glide through the most beautiful tunnels I’ve ever seen, including a 5-kilometer tunnel carved through a mountain called “The Tunnel of Love.” The tunnel exit revealed a beautiful coastline.
Lands of Taiwan—Surfing on Clouds
We spent the next couple of days on the east coast. Our bikes glided across the peaceful rice fields bordering colossal mountain ranges. There was one point where the bike road was in between the blue Philippine sea on the left and the lush green mountains on the right. The main attraction of the island was the beautifully intricate structures of the mountains and carefully preserved wildlife. Everyday, during our 80-125 km journey, we saw vast differences in the landscape. There were mountains with insane geographic folds. Indescribable by words and even pictures couldn’t truly display all of the tiny, intricate, details.
On the last day, the Taiwan Tourism Board spoiled us by taking us on an insane tour of the National Parks. The tour took us into the mountains where you were literally able to see the clouds rolling underneath your feet. It was at this point that I realized life was worth living. The sheer beauty of the landscape put my entire group in awe as we trekked on top of cloud 9.My childhood fantasy was real—I could walk on the clouds.
Taiwan’s Nightlife—Clubs, Markets and Deadly Ice Cream
The west side of Taiwan is more urban and where all of the industry takes place. The scenery transformed from the beautiful landscapes of the east into the vibrant cities and markets of the west. The night markets served bizarre and exciting foods and the nightclubs were quite an experience.We tried so many strange food items and bought the oddest things. On the search for food we were able to experience the notorious stinky tofu, which I probably wouldn’t recommend! It’s was extremely fun tasting all the other bizarre foods like deep fried intestines with chocolate drizzle and spicy ice cream. And when I say spicy I mean I ALMOST DIED. This thing had over 7 million scovilles on the scale! Keep in mind that US grade pepper spray is only two to five million scovilles. What an experience.
Off the Bike
One of the sights we ventured out to see was a place called “Lotus Pond.” It was full of beautiful pagodas built right on the lake. When we hit Taipei, we took a tour of the city and explore some more National Parks. We had breakfast at a unique restaurant called “Five Dime Restaurant.” It was as if Pablo Picasso’s mind exploded and reincarnated into a restaurant. This was hands down one of the weirdest but jaw-dropping buildings I have ever been to. Aside from the amazing food, everywhere you walked was a piece of art.
At the end of the night, we got the chance to go all the way to the top of Taipei 101, a giant skyscraper in the city.We saw the entire skyline, cityscape and the mountain ranges that surrounded it. Such a surreal moment.
The Lows and Highs
While biking did start off very easy as we progressed from day 1-9 the difficulty exponentially rose and dropped depending on the route. There was one route in particular, it was 15 kilometers all steep incline up a mountain that absolutely pushed my will power to the max. The ride was difficult but once we peaked the view could not get any better. As we gazed upon miles of valleys, rivers and mountain ranges our will to keep going just kept getting strong by the hour. Though the incline was a difficult course I would say the most challenging is the flatlands in the urban west until we reached the outskirts of the capital Taipei where mountain ranges and vibrant forests returned to us. As we reach the finish line, our heads were held high and we soldier through the finish line all of us as cheerful as can be. Finally, after 900 kilometers it was over. We did it.
Just two weeks ago, we were normal college students. As I crossed that finish line, there was a rush of blood to my head and an energy in me that exploded into a joyous celebration of victory with my teammates. This is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. This was truly an adventure of a lifetime.